Tag Archives: self-criticism

Just Because.

As you know, I recently injured myself while exercising. What I neglected to mention was that, prior to this, I’d regularly been getting sudden pains in my head.

At the time, it struck me that I probably needed to take it easy but I just couldn’t stop. I was always on the go and I was exercising more than ever. I felt tired a lot but adrenaline was fuelling me and I thought I was doing great.

When I hurt my Achilles tendon, I was forced to slow down. Interestingly, the pains in my head disappeared immediately.

I learnt a lot from the whole episode. I recognised the need for more balance in my life. It also brought home for me the fact that I had to be able to feel good about myself regardless of what I was doing or how I looked.

I realised that it’s all in my head anyway. I could feel good one day and shitty the next. Nothing external had changed, which perfectly proved my point.

However, there’s a difference between knowing something and feeling something. So when the physiotherapist gave me license to return to exercise, I did so that very evening.

The following morning, I was dismayed to discover that the Achilles on my other foot was paining me. Yet again, I had to resort to limping.

An acupuncturist advised me to lay off exercise for a week. I needed rest. My body, in all its intelligence, had created the pain that was making it impossible to do anything but rest.

Though I would never consciously ask for pain as a learning aid, I have learnt a very important lesson from all this. I’ve been doing things in order to feel good. I’ve also been doing things to avoid feeling bad.

Of course, it’s sensible to practise healthy behaviours that accentuate the good and eliminate the bad but it’s also worth remembering that it’s best not to rely too heavily on external routes to happiness.

Also, balance is key. Interesting how both my Achilles were acting up as, without the Achilles, it’s very hard to achieve balance.

Exercise is great. Healthy eating is wonderful. Working hard and taking action is commendable. Achieving success is admirable. But leaning too far in any one direction will upset the balance and, sooner or later, you’ll topple over and hurt yourself.

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I clearly need to listen to my body when it’s tired or sore. Replacing one gym session with a walk in nature would be a good idea. I deserve to take a rest.

And so those deeper issues of self-worth, self-love and self-acceptance make themselves known. I feel good about myself when I’m busy, when I’m doing and achieving. I feel good in my body when I’m exercising and eating healthily.

And I feel bad when I’m not doing all these things. I feel unworthy of love and care and acceptance. Or at least that’s how it’s always been. Until now.

Of course, I knew I should be confident anyway. I knew I was great. I knew I deserved love and care and acceptance. But now I feel it.

The other night, I asked for a sign in my dreams to show me what I need to see in order to heal. I dreamt that I called into my parents’ house to collect a couple of things.

Nobody was home. Minutes later, my parents returned. I overheard my father sniggering to my mother: “Sharon probably came here so she could sleep during the day.” My mother laughed and agreed.

An energy rose up in me. I was about to ignore it but I decided I wanted to stand up for myself. I told my parents that they should respect me even if I was sleeping during the day.

That afternoon, the meaning of the dream dawned on me. The dream was all about me. My body had been crying out for rest but I hadn’t respected it enough to listen to its wisdom. I had ignored it and pushed it even further.

Until it decided to give me a taste of my own medicine. It injured me so that I could finally heal a deep trauma.

In its intelligence, it had injured my Achilles heels. My weakness. How I always strive for perfection just so I can give myself permission to feel good about myself.

This morning, I told my Life Coach that I need to love myself no matter what before I attract in a partner. He said that some man will be lucky to have me. All of me.

He told me that I’m already perfect. My “imperfections” are what are making me vulnerable. My vulnerability is pushing me to grow. And that growth is leading me to greatness. Which doesn’t take away from my present greatness.

So I’m listening to my body. I’m resting. I’m taking a break from high intensity exercise. I’m acknowledging my greatness. I’m believing that I deserve love and care and acceptance. And I’m feeling good just because.

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The Judge

Yesterday, I came up with an exercise to assist people to get to the root of certain destructive behaviours or patterns. The behaviour I had in mind when I designed the exercise was that of judging or criticising.

Last night, I wondered if I could do the exercise. Who am I judging or criticising? I realised that the person I’m currently judging most is myself.

So I completed the three steps to this exercise. The first step is to ask yourself these questions:

1. When you’re judging, is there an underlying fear? If so, what is it?

My answer astounded me and brought me to tears. My fear is that I’m imperfect. I go deeper with this realisation. If I’m imperfect, I believe that I won’t be loved or accepted. I go deeper again. Then, I’ll be rejected. Cast out. Abandoned.

Suddenly my mind is flooded with snapshots of childhood, teen years and early adulthood, where I felt my imperfection brought about rejection, humiliation, anger, fear and withdrawal of love.

Messages I internalised from an early age convinced me that I had to try to be perfect in order to earn love or even just acceptance. I couldn’t be myself or feel the things I was really feeling. I had to try to be what others wanted me to be. Otherwise, I’d be left alone in this world. And to be all alone in this world means certain death.

This made perfect sense when I read Harville Hendrix’s brilliant book Getting The Love You Want. Hendrix describes the structure of the human brain.

The brain stem, which is the most primitive layer, oversees reproduction and vital functions such as breathing, blood circulation and sleep. Then there is the limbic system, which generates vivid emotions. The main concern of this portion of the brain is self-preservation. It is constantly on the alert, trying to ensure your safety. Hendrix refers to these two parts of the brain as the “old brain”.

The third part of the brain is the cerebral cortex, which is most highly developed in Homo Sapiens. This section of the brain deals with cognitive functions. It’s the part of you that makes decisions, thinks, observes, plans, organises information and creates ideas. Hendrix calls this the “new brain”.

The new brain is logical and tries to find a cause for every effect. This part of the brain can moderate some of the instinctual reactions of your old brain.

With regard to my self-judging, I believe that I need to be perfect. If I’m not perfect, I won’t be loved. I will be abandoned. This primeval fear comes from the old brain logic that tells me that the world is not safe. When love is withdrawn from me, I am filled with a fear of death.

So, in answer to the first question about the fear underneath my self-judgment, I am afraid of abandonment. I am afraid for my very survival.

This leads on to the second part of the exercise, which is to ask yourself the following:

2. When you judge, what are you hoping to achieve?

When I judge myself, I’m hoping to change aspects of myself. I’m longing to be perfect. Maybe if I criticise myself enough, I’ll change. Then I’ll be loveable. Both to others and to myself.

I am hit by another huge insight. When I see myself as imperfect, I question my right to be loved.

This makes me feel depressed. I close off a part of myself. My vital force shuts down. I no longer feel alive.

I am abandoning myself. I’m actually killing off a part of myself. Yet again, the old brain is pretty sure I’m going to die.

Having answered these questions and hopefully arrived at some interesting insights, you’re ready for the third part of the exercise, which is this:

3. For one whole day, every time you notice yourself judging, stop and ask yourself: “What would it be like to accept this?”

Yes, it’s good to be the best that you can be and to do things that make you feel good. But for so many years, the only way I could silence my inner critic was to do do do.

However, this was just a temporary fix that didn’t unearth the root cause of the problem. And so these deep-seated beliefs, fears and behaviours were repeatedly resurrected. When I got sick or tired, or when I just couldn’t do all the things that boosted my self-esteem, my superficial confidence crumbled.

Finally, I was no longer prepared to continue running on this ridiculous treadmill of turmoil. I kidded myself that it made me feel good to be doing something but it got me nowhere and, every so often, I’d slip off and smack myself in the face.

So, I’ve stepped off and decided to look deeper. And this exercise has facilitated the process.

Now that I have an understanding about why I’m so self-critical and why these judgements make me feel so bad, my behaviour ceases to be unconscious. I’m now conscious of my seemingly destructive patterns. I understand what’s happening and why it’s happening.

Therefore, I can consciously introduce a new way of thinking and behaving. A way that’s healthier and more beneficial than my previously misguided, outdated attempts at self-protection.

The next time I call myself fat or wince at my grey hairs, I’ll remember that what I’m really experiencing is fear. My critical voice is just trying to prevent me from dying. It wants me to be loved.

As an adult, am my primary care-giver. am responsible for caring for me. I have a choice to love and accept all of me as I am. I’m not going to abandon myself any more. I am safe.

This exercise can be applied to any thought process or pattern of behaviour that is causing you to suffer. Remember, the old brain got its name because it’s been here for a long, long time. So be patient with yourself as you recondition your thinking. And know that you are safe.

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Rejection Junkie

My name is Sharon and I’m a rejection junkie. Today, I did not one but three things in the name of Rejection Therapy.

I asked a stranger for help in getting my car out of an extremely tight spot. I emailed Marianne Power (the blogger who inspired me to subject myself to Rejection Therapy) to tell her how much I love her writing and to send her a link to this blog. And I messaged an old friend (who cut me out of her life a couple of years ago) to ask her how she is, and to tell her that I haven’t forgotten her and that I have very fond memories of the fun times we spent together.

The auto incident reconfirmed how lovely and helpful people are and I wasn’t made feel silly for being incapable of successfully manoeuvring my vehicle. I’m proud of myself for asking for help when I realised that I couldn’t do it alone.

I haven’t heard back from Marianne or my old friend but I’m not counting them as rejections yet because not enough time has passed.

Before bed, I wonder if there is anything else I can do because I haven’t really suffered rejection today. I’m pumped and ready for some excitement.

Am I really living if I’m not taking risks, I wonder. Which leads me to ask myself if I’m turning into a rejection junkie.

I consider joining online dating for about one second. But I’ve done it before and I really can’t be bothered. And surprisingly, I actually feel quite okay with rejection when it comes to men. Has Rejection Therapy worked? Am I cured?

But dating is just one area of my life. This evening, my hairdresser suggested going for my dream job or asking a magazine if I could write for them or standing in a busy part of town wearing a “Free Hugs” sign.

My body filled with dread. I wanted to close my ears. Which means that I should probably tackle those very things. But I might just keep my hands over my ears for a little longer…

So, back to men. My comfort zone. Who’da thunk it?

I scroll through my contacts, pausing over a few men’s names. I could message him. That guy’s hot. I’m attracted to this fella. We have loads in common.

But for every name, I’ve a valid reason for not making contact. I hardly know him. There’s no way he’d be interested in me. He’s related to my friend. He’d make a terrible boyfriend (I know I know, talk about jumping to conclusions!)

Also, a conversation I had with a friend recently is making me hesitate. She argued that men like the chase. When a woman is forward, it puts guys off.

But my impatient streak is making an appearance. Where are these male predators and why aren’t they beating down my door already? (I’d actually find that pretty scary and stalkerish but ya know what I mean.)

Anyway, it’s time for bed. Maybe I’ve been rejected today and maybe I haven’t. Maybe I should make the moves on men and maybe I shouldn’t. And maybe I’ll face my other fears of rejection and maybe I won’t.

I don’t seem to have any answers tonight. I’d love to get some feedback from you guys. And if you don’t give me any, I’m counting it as rejection. Boom.

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Moving On

I walk out of the Life Coaching session beaming. There is something about saying things aloud to someone I trust that shows me how strong I am and how well I’m doing. I see myself as he seems to see me – competent, insightful, brave and proactive.

So much has happened in the two weeks since I’ve last been with him. I’m leaving unhealthy situations. I found a beautiful house to move in to. I started a new course. And I’ve taken a few steps to further my career.

The Life Coach points out that I’m starting to have a healthy sense of entitlement. This means that I know that I’m entitled to have my needs met, in my living environment and in my relationships. I’m thinking more of myself now. And I’m believing that I deserve good things in my life.

I tell the Life Coach that I can really appreciate how I am now because I used to feel so bad. I was anxious. I worried that I wasn’t good enough. I compared myself unfavourably to others and beat myself up on a fairly constant basis.

I also landed myself in less than ideal conditions. And I didn’t even question them. Because I didn’t realise that I deserved better.

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Up until very recently, when I spotted a good-looking guy, I’d immediately think: He’d never look at me. Talk about placing huge invisible walls around myself. Invisible but impenetrable nonetheless.

I’d feel intimidated if a man seemed to have it all together. The men I did feel comfortable with often had so much baggage that it was no wonder the relationship couldn’t go far. Slap my baggage on top of that and we couldn’t move at all.

At twenty-three, I married a man who tried to change me completely. When I first started seeing him, he lived in a rough part of Bilbao. Prostitutes and drug dealers hung out on the street corners. My ex’s flat had mice and boarded up windows.

But I was in love. And nothing else matters when you have love, right? I was defiant in my love for him. Who needed money or common beliefs or a partner who thought you were lovely just as you were?

I didn’t think enough of myself to expect nice dates and holidays with my boyfriend. I didn’t even think enough of myself to expect to be treated with respect and acceptance.

What did it matter if he was pressuring me to change, pressuring me to marry him? I had such a low sense of self that I was okay to bend to his will. Until one day I wasn’t.

So I left him but I went on to date addicts and emotionally unavailable men. Why? They say like attracts like. It was all I knew.

Recently, something big happened in one of my closest relationships. I had to make a tough decision to change my behaviour. I had to break free.

This comfort zone was no longer comfortable. Although it felt impossible to cut the ties of this codependent relationship, not doing it was a scarier option. So I did it.

The guilt and fear threatened to push me backwards but I forged forwards anyway. In order to do that, I had to let go of some of that baggage.

And now I’m moving into a gorgeous house in a lovely little village. I’m surrounding myself with people who think that I’m awesome. I’m doing things that nourish me. I’m meditating, exercising, reading and writing. I’m stepping out of that comfort zone and I’m proud of myself for it.

This morning, after the Life Coaching session, I decide to treat myself to a soya latte and a gluten-free scone with strawberry jam and cream.

I walk into the café where an attractive man catches my eye. Out of habit, I duck my head. Then I remember who I am. How amazing I am.

The smile comes from deep inside. I raise my chin. It doesn’t matter whether he likes me or not. Because I like me.

And my healthy sense of entitlement is telling me that I want to be open to all the wonderful possibilities that are staring me right in the face.

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Soul Sketches

I showed one of my Positive Living groups the following videos. For those who’ve already seen (or couldn’t be bothered watching) them, the first one is about how we perceive ourselves, how we hone in our flaws and imperfections, and how we don’t see the beauty that other people see in us.

The second is a spoof on the first and I cried actual tears, it was so funny.

Afterwards, we drew pictures of how our souls might look like. I instructed the class not to think too much, to just go with the feeling. Below is a picture of my soul, drawn my me.

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Then, I told the class to draw a picture of how they feel the soul of the person sitting beside them might appear. I reminded them not to worry about it being a work of art, to simply allow it to flow. Because I was teaching, I was sitting at the top of the room so there was no way my partner could have seen the picture I had just drawn of my own soul. Five minutes later, I was presented with this.

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We squealed in disbelief and hugged. We had drawn almost the same image of my soul, except she had made it bigger, more vibrant and even more beautiful. And it’s not unlike the Sacred Heart, which is regularly depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light. Maybe it’s not so unusual to imagine a glowing heart when connecting with one’s soul but nobody else in the class drew a heart for themselves or for anybody else.

This was a great exercise and I thoroughly enjoyed drawing like a little kid, totally absorbed in colour, connection and creation. Why don’t you try it with your children, partners or friends? You’ll be amazed at what manifests.

Relationships with others and how to relate to yourself

Recently, a friend informed me that the guy she’d been seeing had ended it with her. She admitted to feeling like a “reject”. I told her that there is nothing wrong with her, that she is perfect exactly as she is, and that she is perfect for the right guy for her. What I didn’t say is that the only thing that isn’t perfect about her right now is her lack of understanding of her own perfection.

Relationships are excellent for giving us very important lessons. They bring us onto an intimate level with another human being so we are forced to confront our issues, insecurities, and deep-seated emotions. Emotions do not arise only for us to squash them. They should be explored as they are a clear indication of what’s working in our lives and what isn’t. Emotions teach us who we are.

The most important relationship you will ever have is the one with yourself. If you don’t know yourself properly, you can never experience a healthy partnership. And if you don’t love yourself, how can you say you love anybody else? Your love is conditional – you will love yourself when you look the way you think you should look, when you’re in a relationship, when society seems to accept you and tell you that you’re a success. The moment any of these conditions change, you snap your love back like a yo-yo. If the love you have for yourself is dependent on a list of conditions, the love you claim to have for others is conditional too. You love them until they behave in a way that you think isn’t right. You love them as long as they fit your criteria of a good friend, a loyal family member, or the perfect partner. This is not real love.

Accept yourself and then you will be able to accept others for who they really are. Lift the veil of delusion that you are wearing across your face and you will be able to easier see what a person is really like. Then, you can make an informed decision as to whether you want a close relationship with this person or not. When you find yourself thinking, “This person looks good and we have a lot in common with each other so we’d be perfect together”; realise that the moment you thought this, a veil came down over your eyes. You are no longer seeing this person as they are but rather as you want them to be. And when chinks of light appear in this veil, you don’t like what you see. So, you blame the other person for making you feel bad. How is a relationship like this going to work?

And when we can’t blame others, we blame ourselves. When relationships end, we often wonder what’s wrong with us. I’m not attractive enough. There must be something missing in my personality. What do I need to change about myself so somebody else can love me? Never change yourself for anyone! Always be yourself no matter what. You can only attract the right people into your life when you are who you really are. Don’t waste any more time pretending and crying over failed relationships. Be grateful that they’re over and that you are not trapped in an unhealthy partnership. Know yourself, be yourself, and love yourself, and everything else will follow.

Last night, a man called into me. As we drank our tea and chatted, he spotted a photograph of me when I was nine years old. I was sitting in the sun with my brother, cousin, and neighbour. We were in our swimming togs after enjoying a water fight. The man asked if I’d been happy back then. I admitted that I cannot remember ever having truly been myself, even when I go back to my earliest memories. I was always trying to change myself to please others. It was a mistaken belief that that was the only way to survive in this world. I worried what others thought about me. I was afraid of being less than perfect. I have cried tears of sadness over this. But that is simply how I chose to think and, therefore, feel at that time. As a result, I can better appreciate and savour getting to know the real me, living my life in the right way for me, and loving myself unconditionally.

Only very recently have I started to know, be, and love myself. I accept myself exactly as I am. Loving myself as I am doesn’t mean that I remain stagnant. Because I love myself, I take myself out of my comfort zone and challenge myself with my own potential. This is scary but rewarding as my confidence and belief in my talents and capabilities are strengthening. I don’t run away from my feelings. I sit with them and learn from them.

I am constantly exploring new avenues of growth and change. I exercise because my body cries out for it and thanks me for it. But I don’t deny myself rest and relaxation. I want to eat healthful foods because that’s what my body deserves. I enjoy what I eat and am grateful for it. I am good to my body so it will be good to me. I get up early to get work done. I study and attend classes because I want a good life of abundance and fulfilment. I help others because I have something to offer and because we are all connected in this world. When I feel sick, hurt, angry or scared, I observe it and allow it, and when I remember, I give thanks for the challenge as it is an opportunity to learn more about myself, which, in turn, enables me to grow.

I am good to myself. I have baths and light candles. I walk in nature and take yoga classes. I feed myself with knowledge as it’s one of the most important nutrients there is. I read books and meditate and listen to music. I wear pretty colours and do my hair. I travel and swim in the ocean and laugh with friends. I spend time alone so that I can centre and rejuvenate myself. And because I now know, accept and love myself, I have given myself a wonderful gift – the freedom and the ability to know, accept, and love my family, friends, and potential partner.

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